Tag Archives: Drew McOnie

Jesus Christ Superstar – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

19 Aug

Jesus Christ Superstar in an open air venue staged like a gig. The concept sounds intriguing and intrigued is what I was when I sat down to watch Regent’s Park Open Air Theate’s summer musical 2016.

First of all the set is wonderful. It’s quite simple but effective and doesn’t take anything away from the one thing that really makes this show: The cast. There’s Declan Bennett as Jesus who gives the role an almost folk-like touch. He’s the angsty leader, a saviour who has been cast in a role he did not ask for. His Gethsemane is a show stopper, sung with so much emotion it hurts the heart. On the other side there is Tyrone Huntley’s fierce Judas – furious with Jesus for not making a real difference and not standing up for himself and the people who worship him.

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Jesus Christ Superstar is a show that for me stands and falls with its two lead actors. You need a Jesus and a Judas who complement each other. And this is exactly what you get in this production. Declan Bennett’s Jesus has an almost eerie calmness surrounding him even in his most vocal moments of the show. Tyrone Huntley’s Judas on the other hand is loud and angry. It’s the perfect mix.

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The show has a strong supporting cast. David Thaxton’s Pilate is truly menacing, Peter Caulfield is possibly the most fabulous Herod I have ever seen and Anoushka Lucas is a sweet Mary Magdalene with a rich voice full of heart and soul.

Interaction between the characters seems to be missing at times possibly due to the concert staging of the show. While Jesus Christ Superstar always has a concert element to it this production goes one step further letting the performers use hand mics and even instruments on stage. At times it does feel like one after the other is coming on stage to sing a song – even when addressing another character the performer would sometimes look at the audience.

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The ensemble works hard – the times they stand still are very limited in this production. While I find Drew McOnie’s choreographie impressive and imaginative I feel there is slightly too much of it here. But seeing Genesis Lynea dance is such a treat so I am not complaining too much.

Then there is the glitter – so much of it. I am a bit torn about the use of it. While I think it is an interesting artistic choice the pure amount of glittery gold on stage seems ridiculous at times. On the other hand having a bloody, beaten and broken Jesus covered in glitter at the end of the show is a haunting image that surely leaves an impression.

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All in all this is a vibrant and imaginative new production of one Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest (my opinion) musicals. It’s not a flawless show but the positive certainly outweighs the negative and the brilliant cast alone make this a production not to be missed.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs at Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre until August 27th 2016. For more info visit: https://openairtheatre.com/production/jesus-christ-superstar The rest of the run is currently sold out but returns may become available.

In the Heights at Southwark Playhouse

28 May

In the Heights was one of the shows I watched on my trip to Broadway back in 2009. I remember having really high expectations after hearing nothing but praise for the show and ending up being slightly disappointed. Whilst I loved the amazing dance scenes in the show the story left me somewhat cold and I didn’t feel any connection with the characters.

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So this time I was prepared for 2 hours of great dancing and some nice songs but nothing more – talk about putting your expectation at the lowest possible level! What I certainly didn’t expect was a production that is so full of energy and so intoxicating it almost swept me off my feet (or better: my seat). And now I finally get what makes In the Heights so special, what I have missed out on when I saw the show on Broadway. This intimate production at Southwark Playhouse is in my eyes superior to the Original Broadway production. Drew McOnie’s slick choreography is nothing but amazing and the cast – a mix of West End favourites and new faces – tells the story of Usnavi, Vanessa, Nina and the rest of the people in the neighbourhood with such passion, you can’t help but feel connected to everyone on stage.

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Sam Mackay is mesmerising as Usnavi – he made me laugh and he made me cry. Emma Kingston is a wonderful Vanessa and Christina Modestou is just as brilliant as Nina. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (once again) plays the feisty character with a good heart and (once again) she is a joy to watch. David Bedella gives a solid performance as Kevin while Josie Benson (Camilla) receives one of the biggest rounds of applause for her solo song in act two. A special mention goes to Jonny Labey as Graffitti Pete – I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he started to dance. This young man sure has a big career ahead of him.

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I cannot praise this production enough. It is wonderful to see how much heart and soul everyone has been put into this show. In the Heights is a tale of life, love, friendship and hope and an example of what you can achieve when you believe in yourself and don’t give up.

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The show is running at Southwark Playhouse until 7th June 2014. The rest of the run is sold out but there is a chance of return tickets and I urge everyone to try and get their hands on a ticket. This is one of those rare opportunities to see a show that has it all – great songs, brilliant dancing, the most amazing voices,a story that – while not extremely deep – will engage you emotionally and a through and through fantastic cast.

For more info check out http://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk .